Friday A/V Club: Mort Sahl's Guide to the Political Spectrum

How the left, the right, and the middle looked in 1967


How did the political spectrum look in 1967? Here's Mort Sahl with an answer:

So social democrats were in the middle of the road, it was the far right that had a reputation for too many meetings, and it was still possible to describe Bobby Kennedy's politics in terms of his actual messy record rather than the hopes people projected onto him. (Remember, he hadn't been shot yet.) Note also the charmingly chaste bit at the end—when's the last time you saw a comedian cracking jokes about how many dates it takes a woman to "kiss" a man?

Bonus link: If you want to compare and contrast that with the political spectrum of 1972, check out Mad's guide to left and right.

(For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)

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  1. Everyone was so formal back then.

    1. People didn’t wear their fucking pajamas to the grocery store.

  2. It’s really interesting reading the MAD guide. The far reduced level of vitriol and nasty, vicious stereotypes is telling. The rot of extreme, social signaling partisanship hadn’t set in like it has today. I’m beginning to think more and more that it’s the social signaling that makes it so bad. People are constantly trying to top each other’s social signaling and this leads to an escalating “arms race” of being more and more extremely partisan in an attempt to show everyone how “our TEAM” they are.

    It’s going to be interesting (in the Chinese proverb sense) seeing how far it will go.

    1. The Mad Guide is great, and dead on for 1972.

    2. I’m beginning to think more and more that it’s the social signaling that makes it so bad.

      But I’m NOT a racist, and here, let me prove it by pointing out everything that’s racist!

    3. It’s the logical reaction for people who live under a more powerful and intrusive government to be more partisan and nasty. If the government has very little ability to effect your life, then who really gives a shit who’s in power or what they think about x? OTOH, if the government can fuck you and everyone/thing you care about on a whim, then controlling that monster becomes an issue of life or death.

      1. Well, if it’s going to fuck me and everyone/thing I care about, then it’s gonna be my guy in charge of it!

      2. Except that that doesn’t really control the monster. The social signaling is much more about peers and associates and anyone who you are concerned about how they perceive you. Sending the “right” signals doesn’t really change anything the government does towards you (since it is generally hostile towards individuals that capture its attention), but it does change how the people around you react to you.

    4. It’s the colleges?pressuring more students through the post-secondary route both deprecates the quality of education and gives more marginal minds in every generation the illusion of having achieved something of substance. Add to that the gloss of soft-Marxism and campus grievance-peddling and we’re left with marginal, untested thinkers doing the one thing they know: signaling their privileged credentials.

    5. “Conservatives are reliable pallbearers” is the best joke in the piece. Can you imagine what it would look like if som publication made one today? It would be shit along the lines of “Liberals murder babies” and “Conservatives don’t read books”.

    6. I’m not sure I can get behind an observation that the late 60s-early 70s were *less* politically contentious, given the riots, assassinations, and bombings and such.

      What we have today is more blind, binary partisanship – TEAM politics. The striking thing about the MAD guide is that they see six categories, not two.

      Today’s political satire would just have two, both of which are incoherent coalitions with no central vision, just a sense that we all need to band together to prevent the evil party from being victorious, which (conveniently) is fed by the sense that TEAM X is an schizophrenic blend of self-contradictory ideologies that must be defeated just on inconsistency alone.

  3. when’s the last time you saw a comedian cracking jokes about how many dates it takes a woman to “kiss” a man?

    I can’t watch the video… what was the punchline? Does he give a number?

    1. Basically, that Liberal women kiss on the first date, Moderates wait a few dates to smooch, and far-Right women never kiss. Maybe that was true way back in 1967. I don’t remember because I was only 3 years-old…

      1. And progressive women don’t even appear on the scale?

        1. No they let you fuck them in the ass on the first date, but then they carry a mattress around for a few years and call their buyer’s remorse a rape.

        2. Isn’t Progressive a relatively new term to identify people who are even nuttier than Leftists?

          1. It’s an old term that was re-appropriated by the New Left in the late 80s/early 90s when they no longer wanted to be so directly associated with Communism, which was collapsing.

            1. And now most recently it’s used to differentiate them from liberals.

      2. Ah, so they hadn’t thrown off the shackles of the patriarchy yet.

  4. The Mad Magazine one is still the best. Semi-related anecdote; When I was a wee nipper, I enjoyed making weird T-shirts using the fancy new service provided by our local Kinko’s. Most of the art was my own (OK, it mainly collage in a ham handed attempt to be like Winston Smith) but I was so enamored with Mad’s Belch-Not Strained Babies (Packed by cannibals for cannibals) soup can label that I wanted it on a shirt. The Kinko’s made me fax some boilerplate IP release form of theirs to the copyright holder. I dutifully called the publisher’s office, explained the situation to the nice lady who answered the telephone and asked if I might send the fax. About an hour later, I received 3 paragraphs of the most beautifully assembled, obscenity filled tirade I have have ever read, decrying the shoddy, overbroad, boilerplate release, the stupidity of IP law in general, permission to use the image on a T-shirt, and admonition for being a cheapskate who makes his own shirts from Bill Gaines himself.

    1. Ha! I hope you kept it.

      1. Of course. I’m a lifelong fan of the Magazine, even having some Al Jaffee tattoos.

  5. Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
    ~Lazarus Long

  6. I always loved that bit, which he carried on w variations for many years. By the 1970s he was saying, “There are no liberals any more, there are only social democrats.” He was so right.

    He’s still around, BTW.

    I wonder what he thought about Lost. Also, whether he could use any bubble bath.

  7. If you liked the MAD guide, try mine ?…..erence.doc
    (Word Perfect 5.1 format)

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